To address the massive unemployment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Biden-Harris administration should establish a Digital Work Projects Administration (D-WPA), creating government-funded jobs that people can perform from their own homes or other safe locations. Inspired by the Depression-era Work Projects Administration, or WPA, the modern D-WPA would put millions of unemployed Americans to work serving the public good and speeding the country’s economic recovery.
In the D-WPA, work will be digital instead of physical. Digital tools allow many jobs to be done from anywhere good internet access is available. D-WPA participants could work safely and effectively no matter how long the pandemic limits in-person employment. Working remotely, D-WPA participants could help combat the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigate its economic and societal impacts. At the same time, participants would learn, practice, and improve digital skills of increasing value in the modern workforce.
The D-WPA should be established within the Department of Labor, with sufficient funding to put up to 4 million Americans back to work quickly and safely. Funds for this program should be requested in the next COVID-19 recovery package. In the meantime, existing DOL employment and training programs could be used to support an initial cohort of workers for the D-WPA, demonstrating proof of concept while efforts are underway to secure full funding. The D-WPA should create both public- and private-sector positions supporting the national response to the pandemic’s health and economic impacts.